Category Archives: Birds of Cameroon 2017/2018

Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

I had been very successful in the Bakossi Mountains with the Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis) – also known as Serle’s Bushshrike. After an unsuccessful first day on an expedition in these Afrotropic mountains, my indispensable guides and me encountered a total of 7 individuals of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike until the end of the second day; including 4 sightings and 3 only heard individuals elsewhere in the forest.

The Bakossi Mountains are part of the so-called Cameroon Mountain Arc in the western country of Cameroon. Here an Afrotropic mountain vegetation prevails. In addition to the Mount Kupe Bushshrike other endemic species like e.g. Mount Cameroon Francolin (Francolinus camerunensis) and Bannerman’s Turaco (Tauraco bannermani) contribute to the wealth in biodiversity.

Overall, I spent nearly 15 minutes at the site where a pair of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike displayed a mating ritual (as described in the blog). Initially I shot with the Canon EF 400mm 1: 2.8L IS II USM from a Gitzo tripod. The frequent relocation of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike along with the unexpectedly low-level location of the bird inside the forest let me switch to the Canon EF 200mm f / 2L IS USM on the Canon EOS 5DS R. Despite exposure times of 1/160 sec. – later also with 1/80 sec. – the excellent image stabilizer allowed shots from the hand. A total of 183 pictures were shot on the occasion, of which 26 pictures were reasonably acceptable and a few were good enough. The image of the Mount Kupe Bushshrike Continue reading Mount Kupé Bushshrike – some aspects on equipment & logistics

Orange Weaver near nest on Sanaga River

KönigsweberThe sun was already up and shining. The mighty Sanaga River laid in beautiful light in front of us. A small wooden boat was hired for this morning to pick us up at a sand pit at the shore of the river for a morning trip on the water. When we arrived, nobody was there. But some more minutes later we saw two guys heavily paddling a small canoe down river. We embarked the canoe only minutes later and started the trip. Large sandbanks in the middle of the river were our first stop. Eventually we made our way down the river to some more matured sandbank, which has become well vegetated islands. The banks of these islands were quite steep and the water in front so deep that the driver of the canoe could not fix the boat with his long wooden stick. Maneuvering the boat with the paddles against the currents, I saw a typical weaver nest hanging less than half a meter above water level on reed. I tried to tape the Orange Weaver (Ploceus aurantius) with its call. Only a fraction of time, a small yellow bird with an orange wash on the head and breast appeared: the male of the Orange Weaver. What a bird!

The Orange Weaver was one of the highlights on a Rockjumper trip in April 2017. But at that time we saw 3 birds on our final birding Continue reading Orange Weaver near nest on Sanaga River

Grey Pratincole at Sanaga River/ Cameroon

GraubrachschwalbeThe black eyestripe which curves down behind the eye, the light chestnut nape, and the white supercilium features a small beauty: the Grey Pratincole (Glareola cinerea). Add a light grey for the upperparts and a white rump with a black tail you are ready with the ID.

The excursion to the Sanaga River in the South Province, Cameroon was the target of my last birding part during a trip in February. We departed from the nice Hostelerie de la Sangha in Edea. At least close to Douala it is easiest here to pick up Grey Pratincole and the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris). Additionally, Preuss’s Swallow (Hirundo preussi) and some waders were present as well. Coming from Douala we just passed the center of Edea and just after the second large bridge over the river take the first tarmac road left which goes to Dizangue. Soon it becomes a dirt road and after about 10 km from the turnoff the road comes close to the river.

The large sandbanks in the middle of the river were our first stop. We found the African Skimmers and the Grey Pratincoles immediately. Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Little Stint (Calidris minuta), several Kentish (Snowy) Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) were present in low numbers as Continue reading Grey Pratincole at Sanaga River/ Cameroon

CAMEROON – a birding trip to south-western Cameroon

HalsbandwürgerINTRODUCTION

Having participated in a Rockjumper Trip to Cameroon with a 3-week itinerary in April 2017 I knew that Cameroon is likely the number 1 birding destination in Western Africa with a big potential of seeing more but in a 3-week itinerary in a group of 11 participants. A trip list in April of 537 (of which 393 photographed) species for 3 weeks and an increase of my global bird list by as many as 319 species to 4.449 species was not a bad result. But overall, photography, an intensive feeling for nature and sometimes silence on the birding spot came short. Ok, no wonder with the many participants plus 2 leaders, guides, porters etc..

Right at the end of the trip to Cameroon in April 2017, I had considered making a second trip – but different. This time it should be a real photography trip. As a ground agent I realized, that Jean-Pierre Somon (jeanpierre.somon@yahoo.fr) might be able to arrange the trip. I wanted to focus on 3 locations:

 

  • Bakossi Mountains for the Mt. Kupe Bushshrike.
  • Sanaga River for African Skimmer and Grey Pratincole
  • Campo Ma’an NP for the Red-headed Picathartes or Grey-necked Rockfowl.

I opted for mainly camping in Campo-Ma’an-NP as well as in the Bakossi Mountains. For the birds of the Sanaga River I wanted definitely to take a boat in the early morning. Starting point: the Continue reading CAMEROON – a birding trip to south-western Cameroon

Out of area Common Whitethroat in Cameroon

DorngrasmückeA Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) is a common warbler in the Western Palaearctic. But not in February. The same is true, if you see the Common Whitethroat in in the litoral province in southern Cameroon. On a way back from a successful hike on Mount Cameroon, we were lucky to be surprised by this Western Palaearctic visitor near the foothills of the highest mountain of Western Africa.

After having spent almost the whole on the mountain, we were hiking already back through agricultural land. In a small shrub above the fist outskirtst of the local town Buea, I became aware of a bird by its movement. The rust-brown wings with the black wing edges on a gray-brown back, a gray head and a hint of an eye ring I know but somewhere. The throat looks pure white. Yes, that must be a Whitethroat. Taking a photo takes too long. Besides, I do not want to have any trouble with the officials because we are right in front of the local prison. For that I can look in the binoculars in detail what turn out to be a female of the Whitethroat.

With the ID I am fine, but the distribution map of the Whitethroat, which is shown in the book “Birds of Western Africa” ​​by Nik Borrow Continue reading Out of area Common Whitethroat in Cameroon

Photography of Grey-necked Rockfowls between rocks in Cameroon

After having arrived in the rock-cut cathedral of giant boulders to see the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas), called also the Red-headed Picathartes, in the Campo Maan National Park in April 2017, we settle down to wait. Be patient and wait. This is the motto.

We are still pretty early. It is just 4:00 pm. I got assigned a place by the Ranger of the NP office, which seems a bit reset compared to last April. But with my Canon EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM I’m well prepared. I set up the three-legged stool and adjust the 200 with the EOS 5 DsR to the Gitzo G1588 monopod. In addition, I arrange the EOS 1 DX with the Canon EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in case the Grey-necked Rockfowl is suddenly in front of me. That had happened briefly in April; too short for the lens attached at that time. I switch both cameras on Silent Mode. But I change that after a while with the EOS 1 DX, because I think that – when I use the EOS 1 DX – it is really hardship and then noise does not matter anymore. In this case speed is more needed. Luckily, I still remember to turn on the image stabilizer on the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM. Then I am ready. I’m still undecided whether I should rather take the EF200mm f / 2.0L IS USM or the EF85mm f / 1.8 USM in the hand. The sitting position is ok on the stool; but sitting for hours is perhaps not recommended.

After I sorted everything I feel prepared. The nests of the Picathartes seem to be much further compared to their last visit in Continue reading Photography of Grey-necked Rockfowls between rocks in Cameroon

Grey-necked Rockfowl in Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

One of the reasons for a 2-week tour to Cameroon was to take much better shots of the Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas). Called also the Red-headed Picathartes, the very primitive-looking rainforest dwellers were already the main reason to visit Campo Maan National Park in April 2017.

The drive to Campo Maan National Park was tedious but ultimately successful. Now only the way through the jungle to the large granite rocks in the breeding area of ​​the Grey-necked Rockfowlhad needed to be mastered. The path has grown pretty much. The local guide must therefore run ahead with the machete and cut it free. In the mud you can see but also footprints, which cannot be so long ago. Thus a certain tourist frequency seems to exist. Unlike in April, we do not see any other of the forest birds along the way. In fact it is really quite in the shade of the trees. Then the impressive collection of giant pebbles appears in the darkness of the forest. Like a dark castle, the blocks of Continue reading Grey-necked Rockfowl in Campo Maan National Park / Cameroon

The Mount Kupé Bushshrike in the Bakossi Mountains

HalsbandwürgerA fresh, sunny morning in the Bakossi Mountains. The initial stretches of the trail are even for a fairly distance, getting steeper and even insanely steep inside the core primary forest. The last patch we did inside primary forest before getting to one of the territorial spots of the Serle’s Bushshrike – better known as Mount Kupe Bushshrike (Telophorus kupeensis), we did not see especially many birds. It was a fairly quiet forest. Finally, we have found a territorial pair of Serle’s Bushshrike or Mount Kupe Bushshrike. The birds are even quite low to detect inside the forest – almost just above the undergrowth. We pass lianas and fallen tree trunks and then stand just below the top of a ridge. A little further down the slope, a couple of the Serle’s Bushshrike (Mount Kupe Bushshrike) cling to twigs and branches in a not too dense, but mossy and lichen-covered undergrowth. It is very similar to the habitat description “Primary forest with relatively open understorey, sometimes on steep hillsides; at 930-1550 m “, which is described in the Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Editions, Barcelona.

Obviously, the two birds have chosen a special place and perform something like a dance, which is only known to a few ornithologists and is very observable. Definitely a mating display; a reminiscence Continue reading The Mount Kupé Bushshrike in the Bakossi Mountains

Mountain Robin-Chat on red ants road at Mount Cameroon

During the night, a heavy thunderstorm had fallen with heavy downpours over Douala and the southwestern province. Now in the early morning a few birds are on the hiking trail. In an open site, some specialists have found themselves plundering an ant-train. Unlike in South America, these birds actually seem to eat the ants themselves. Anyway, I quickly see at least 4 Garden Bulbuls (Pycnonotus barbatus gabonensis), at least 2 Mountain Robin-Chat (Oreocossypha isabellae or Cossypha isabellae) and at least 1 Brown-chested Alethe (Chamaetylas poliocephala). The Brown-chested Alethe is much shyer than the other birds. Nevertheless, she can be photographed perfectly on a perch. A young Mountain Robin-Chat is so engaged in his search for food that it lets me easily approach up to 6 meters. The Mountain Robin-Chat proceeds always in the same way. First it walks to an exposed part on the side of the ant trail, lowers the head as if it should think, and then pecks in a fraction of a second. Whether picking was successful, I cannot judge at the minuteness of the loot. All the while, I have to make an image at a time. Sometimes the Garden Bulbuls approach this site after disappearing and try to move the Mountain Robin-Chat away from its best place. In the short term, that also has success. But quickly, the young Mountain Robin-Chat is back in place and just keeps going. Continue reading Mountain Robin-Chat on red ants road at Mount Cameroon

Swifts over Sanager River/ Cameroon

MohrenseglerSwifts (Apodiformes) in the family Apodidae are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 13 species occurring in Cameroon. In a Rockjumper trip to Cameroon in April 2017, swifts were encountered almost every day with Little swift (Apus affinis) and African palm-swift (Cypsiurus parvus) being by far the most common.  The best shots of Swifts and Swallows during the trip you will finde in the gallery “Swift and Swallows over Sanaga River in Cameroon” .

Common Swift (Apus apus) are probably the 3rd most abundant and could be seen and photographed especially in the lowlands near the Sanaga River close to Edea in the south-west corner of Cameroon. A gallery of flying birds of Sanager river – Swallows and Swifts – show the great potential for birders and photographers.

Numbers of Common Swifts are declining throughout Europe. A third of British Swifts e.g. have been lost since 1995. But the reasons underpinning this decline are unclear. Scientists of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO ) are involved in a project aiming to address Continue reading Swifts over Sanager River/ Cameroon

Mount Cameroon: a heaven for little birds

FarncistensängerArriving from the Northern Extension of the Rockjumper Rainforest & Rockfowl 2017 – tour we were more than tired as we had arrived on a late flight from Garoua via Yaoundé. To postpone the breakfast to get some sleep was not advisable. The birds do not sleep during the day. And: the morning hours are the most productive. We had a very good breakfast and shortly later our Rainforest & Rockfowl started off with a visit to Mount Cameroon. We were delighted to have a beautiful morning, after heavy rain the previous night, and there was an excited buzz in the air for the anticipation of great birding which lay ahead. We were not to be disappointed and the forest was alive and active throughout the day but especially in the morning.

For 10 minutes we entered the vans to get the first kilometers uphill done before we saw the fields below Mount Cameroon in front of us. We then headed up the mountain on muddy – and in cases – some slippery trails. In comparison to other trails this route is not as steep and narrow. Fortunately the climate is more comfortable here than in the lowlands.

Right in the beginning we had several brown-headed beauties, which show well after a while. Behavior and my anticipation looked for Grey Apalis. But the chestnut-browns color of the head did not seem to fit the description of a grey-brown head. The „Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa“ (Helm Field Guides) von Nik Borrow and Continue reading Mount Cameroon: a heaven for little birds

Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis) near Bamenda in the Cameroon Highlands

BamendabülbülA dark olive-brown bird moves between twigs and branches. The trees are on the slope above the crater lake are not so high. This allows for very nice pictures of birds, which would otherwise be rather up in the canopy – largely invisible from the ground. This time, the brown bird with the striking beak is not a banded wattle-eye. At first sight it reminds me of an Terrestrial Brownbul (Phyllastrephus terrestris). But this Brownbul is a bird more confined to a variety of thickly vegetated habitats in evergreen forests mostly in the lowlands and coastal scrub of southern and eastern Africa. This medium-sized, relatively elongated, simple-looking bird is a Greenbul with a relatively long and fine beak. Lores, throat and the side parts of the face are light grey. While the tail appears rather brown, the predominant color of the wings and the back is olive. This is the Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis), which is – unlike the previously seen Cameroon Montane Greenbul (Andropadus montanus) – not particularly olive green. We are lucky, because the species is limited in its distribution only to the ecoregion of the Cameroon mountains although the bird is not so rare in its distribution range.

The trip to the crater lake Lake Awing was already very productive. A young Banded Wattle-eye (Platysteira laticincta) and one of the parents could already be seen along a ridge above the lake. A very Continue reading Cameroon Olive-Greenbul (Phyllastrephus poensis) near Bamenda in the Cameroon Highlands

Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) in the Cameroon lowlands

SchlangenbussardDriving from Edea down to Kribi in April 2017 we managed to catch a bird, unobtrusively crouching on a branch of a medium-sized tree right along the road. The bird had large eyes, but was sitting right in the open. Wow, this was the Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) is a medium-sized eagle that occurs in densely forested areas throughout western and central Africa. Normally prey is spotted in dark forest, either on a tree trunk, in foliage, or on the ground. But they also hunt along roads and forest clearings and may perch over rivers.

The Congo Serpent-Eagle is part in the family Accipitridae, and is classified in the monotypic genera Dryotriorchis. This species is found in West and Central Africa, with its range stretching from Sierra Leone south to Angola and west to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis spectabilis) is found in upper Guinean forests of Western Africa, while Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis batesi) is found in lower Guinean forests in the south of Cameroon and Gabon.

Although monotypic, it seems to be closely related to Circaetus- Snake-Eagles like the Short-toed Snake-Eagle (Circaetus gallicus) and is possibly a link between these and the Asian genera Spilornis – Serpent-Eagles like the Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela). This Continue reading Congo Serpent-Eagle (Dryotriorchis spectabilis) in the Cameroon lowlands

Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the Cameroon Highlands

BlutbrustwürgerTo discover a Fiery-breasted Bushshrike (Malaconotus cruentus) in the mountain rainforest of south-western Cameroon is a very special privilege of a birding trip. As soon as we started to climb a hiking trail at Mount Kupe, we saw the mountain chain of Mt. Kupe, Mt. Oko near Kumbo and Mt. Cameroon. A beautiful chain of mountain rainforests.

Right in the beginning we could observe some of the primeval forest specialists, such as Speckled Tinkerbird (Pogoniulus scolopaceus) or the Yellow-billed Barbet (Trachyphonus purpuratus) in the canopy. Impressive birds. Especially when you can see them in the spotting real good. The view up into the canopy is quite exhausting – if you perform it for a while. But when our bird guide was able to detect a large, powerful bird high up between epiphytes and mosses of the canopy, all eyes were directed upwards again. These plants occur only in areas with frequent rainfall and high humidity. For this purpose, the light tropical rainforest of Mount Kupes is predestined. It is a Fiery-breasted Bushshrike, a colorful bird from the family of Bush shrikes (Malaconotidae). The Fiery-breasted Bushshrike first stands on a thick branch and moves there without great haste. Despite its striking colors, it still looks very unobtrusive and can easily be overlooked. He reminds me a bit of a Cutia (Cutia nipalensis), one member of the Shrike Babblers from the Continue reading Fiery-breasted Bushshrike in the Cameroon Highlands

Little Greenbuls fly catching insects in the rain

Having been in Campo Ma’an National Park in southern Cameroon already the 2nd day, we experienced a heavy thunderstorm with endless rain. Probably not the first front of the rainy season brought heavy rain and thunder – and myriads of flying insects.

Just outside our basic camp, birds made sallies into the air, to catch insects that started flying in the rain. It is amazing what the combination of the Canon 400mm f4.0 DO IS USM and the EOS 1DX can perform in the rainy weather. Then the question quickly arose: “What bird do the photos show?” immediately I supposed a Greenbul or Bulbul. A Common or Garden Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus) show the great flight recordings certainly not. I recalled in my notes, that besides swallows and swifts, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher (Erythrocercus mccallii) and some Sunbirds had also participated in the flycatching orgy during the rain on the clearing that day.

After consultation with an ornithologist specialized in African Continue reading Little Greenbuls fly catching insects in the rain

Grey-necked Picathartes in Campo-Ma’an National Park/ Cameroon

Buntkopf-FelshüpferNow the afternoon was for the Grey-necked Picathartes or Grey-necked Rockfowl (Picathartes oreas). We expected an arduous trip of hiking for hours through tropical heat in the National Park. Some people say, that the bird only appears after rain storms. If this would be true, we would be unlucky, as on our first day in the park’s interior, it did not rain. We had only one more day in the park – but rain seemed likely enough for the next days. I cannot confirm, that the particiapants of the trip showed sights of anxiety and gloom. But never you know. On trips prior to ours the bird had not been seen.

But already with the hike we were lucky. We had a short, pleasant and fairly easy hike with lots of good birds to at “cave” formed of several enormous boulders where the birds build mud nests on the sides of the rocks during the breeding season. We hoped that no rain was needed as our guides told us, that this species checks on its breeding site every afternoon or during dusk. We arrived early in the hope that the birds would appear in some natural light. Maybe earlier than normally to expect. One of the local guides tried to show as the nest a bit too much. We almost shouted through the forest to keep him from removing the nest. The Continue reading Grey-necked Picathartes in Campo-Ma’an National Park/ Cameroon

Neumann’s Starling flight along cliffs in Bamenda/ Cameroon

RotflügelstarHaving birded the Bamenda highlands until midday, we expected an impressive rainstorm, over the buzzling town of Bamenda while admiring several Neumann’s Starling (Onychognathus neumanni)  obviously feeding on the cliffs just below the plateau of the upper parts of the suburbs. Neumann’s Starling are said to be observed from some rocks in the a semi-suburban/ agricultural area above the city.

We visited a (very) little farm which offers a breathtaking view over the steep cracks – probably of clay – which make up the edges of the urban basin of Bamenda. After two short incoming flights, the last flight of a male Neumann’s Starling was shot with this photo.

Other excellent birds were breeding White-crowned Cliff-Chat (Thamnolaea coronata), which were found in the immediate vicinity Continue reading Neumann’s Starling flight along cliffs in Bamenda/ Cameroon

Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour

KrokodilwächterThe Birdlife of West Africa was on the schedule for April 2017. I decided for the Africa specialist Rockjumper. Cameroon is a vast and diverse land; lying just north of the equator. This bird-rich nation forms the inter-grade between West and Central Africa and harbors a wide range of habitats, ranging from steamy lowland rainforest to Sahelian semi-desert.

By combining the Rainforest & Rockfowl tour with the Northern Extension tour of the Africa-specialist Rockjumper I was confident to book a birding tour that visits all of the area’s core ecological zones and provides a thorough coverage of this West Africa birding destination in three-weeks. Due to its wealth of habitats, over 900 bird species have been recorded, and comparable tours had been successful with roughly 550 species. This is the one side. But how about bird photography – my 2nd leg of interest.

Here the guidelines provided by Rockjumper are clear: NOTE FOR Continue reading Cameroon: bird photography on a guided birding tour

Hartlaub’s Duck near Douala in southern Cameroon

HartlaubenteHigh on the list of a Rockjumper-trip in Cameroon was the Hartlaub’s Duck  (Pteronetta hartlaubii). We found four on the morning going to the Sanaga River, Cameroon in April 2017. Probably they were 2 pairs in the area.

On the road from Douala to Yaoundé lies the remnant of a lake that has grown to a small, shallow pond. Probably the construction of the road has cut off the access between the water source and the lake. The lake is already fairly grown but looks still quite close to a natural habitat despite the proximity to the city. Maybe this small pond was formed by former flooding by the nearby river. Just in the early morning some very nice birds are to be found here. And promptly I have my fist liver. And it is a megabird. A male of a Hartlaub’s Duck is floating in the shallow water. Its partner is also to be seen. Then one of the Hartlaub’s ducks flies up, revealing the beautiful wing badges, which are so typical of this species. A very inconspicuous African Pygmy-goose (Nettapus auritus) floats in the water as well. In the further course there are 2 more Hartlaub’s Duck, this time swimming together with – in total – 4 African Pygmy-goose to see. In the further course, the Hartlaub’s Ducks fly a few more times. Of the 30 flight shots, 3 are acceptable enough, to be Continue reading Hartlaub’s Duck near Douala in southern Cameroon

Tree Pipit: back from Africa

BaumpieperA remembrance of a song, beautiful and both familiar and strange. It took a while until I got the clue. It was a Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) singing in a woodland in the heath on sunday. Singing now south of Berlin, seen 20 days ago in Cameroon. There the subspecies trivialis was still fairly common near the Ngaoundaba Ranch on the Adamawa Plateau of middle Cameroon in the beginning of April. Other migrant WP-birds were Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Great Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and many Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra).

The Tree Pipit is a small passerine bird which breeds across most of Europe. It is an nondescript species, similar to the Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The Tree Pipit is brown with streakings above and has black markings on a white belly and buff breast below. It can be distinguished from the slightly smaller Meadow Pipit by its heavier bill and greater contrast between its buff breast and white belly. Tree pipits more readily perch in trees in comparison Continue reading Tree Pipit: back from Africa